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Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Page: 987

Mrs MIRABELLA (9:42 AM) —I rise this morning to pay tribute to John and Marg Lawton of Benalla in my electorate. It was with great sadness that I learned of John Lawton’s passing on 11 February. John Lawton was an English World War II veteran who proudly fought in the Battle of Britain and also in South-East Asia, India and Burma. He always wanted to live in Australia and spent the remaining years of his life here.

In October last year the family Australian flag was stolen, and I was very pleased to personally visit the Lawtons and give them a replacement. The two cut a dashing figure throughout that township of Benalla with their unique two-seater buggy, affectionately known in town as ‘the love buggy’. They proudly flew the Australian flag from their vehicle and together they were indeed a Benalla institution. Marg recounted to me how helpful the buggy was in getting around town. She said, ‘It gets John out and about and everyone talks to him while I shop’—a very useful pastime for any husband while his wife is shopping.

Marg and John married in 2005 in the garden of their Benalla home. They adjourned to the Farmers Arms Hotel. At the reception, the couple happily spoke of their age difference—John was 88 and Marg was 68—to which the publican exclaimed in horror, ‘Child brides!’ John then admitted, without a hint of reticence, ‘Yes, I’m a cradle snatcher.’

Their beautiful story shows us the bonds of community, where local people interact and socialise, building the necessary social capital upon which happy, stable communities are built. The residents, the shops, the local health care providers, the local art gallery and the pub—all these aspects of life in Benalla were a feature in Marg and John Lawton’s happy coexistence. In the case of Marg and John, this was a love story that younger couples can only hope to emulate. Theirs is a great model for reinforcing the importance of marriage in giving stability to our society. I pay tribute to John for all he did. It was a well-lived life. I wish Marg all the best as she remembers the best times of her life spent with her beloved John and carries on during this difficult time.